VMware Fusion 5 Professional ups the ante for OS X VM tech

VMware's Fusion 5 Professional Edition for OS X is a really big step up in virtual machine technology under OS X

I've just fired up VMware Fusion 5 Professional Edition on my iMac under OS X Mountain Lion and I'm really impressed.

I last looked at VMware Fusion in June last year when it was at Version 3.1 and since then it has come a long way.

In that column I discussed how I tried to create a virtual machine under Fusion running Windows 98 in a forlorn attempt to play an ancient game, "Star Wars Episode I: Racer," published by LucasArts (Wikipedia notes that the game "currently holds the record for the best-selling sci-fi racing game having worldwide sales of 3.12 million beating other series like Wipeout and F-Zero").

VISUAL HISTORY: Star Wars video games

My attempt to run the game under Fusion 3.1 didn't work for a number of complex and frustrating reasons that all pivot on the fact the game depends on Windows 95 or 98 running DirectX 6.1 and that combo just didn't work under Fusion 3.1. It probably won't work under Fusion 5, but I don't have the patience or desire to try to make it work all over again.

So, what does Fusion 5 bring to the table? Well it is optimized for OS X Mountain Lion and for Windows 8 as well. It's user interface is designed for Mountain Lion. You can stream Mac and Windows applications using "AirPlay Mirroring" in Mountain Lion. You can run Windows 8 Home, Professional, Enterprise or any of more than 200 guest operating systems in virtual machines. You can run Windows from a Boot Camp partition. You can run Windows Server 2012 in a virtual machine and you can run Metro applications on your Mac with full screen gestures.

But wait! That's not all! Fusion 5 also supports running Windows 7 and 8 on Retina display-equipped Macs and optionally allows Windows to use full Retina display resolution. You can also run more virtual machines on large-memory Macs sporting 16GB RAM or more and Windows 7 boot performance is up to 40% faster.

There's also USB 3.0 device support for new Macs (which requires Windows 8 or Linux with USB 3.0 support), accelerated 3D desktop support for Linux (including Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 4), improved network performance when using multiple vCPUs, and you can even run OS X Mountain Lion in a virtual machine.

But wait, there's even more! You can run VMware ESXi 5, Linux KVM and Xen, and Microsoft's Hyper-V (experimental) hypervisors in virtual machines.

Actually, I haven't listed all of the improvements ... I haven't even had my hands on Fusion 5 long enough to get around to running Windows 7 or 8 yet.

I did run up a Lubuntu 12.04 image and, wow! The performance is fantastic. If you haven't come across Lubuntu it is described on DistroWatch as "a fast, lightweight and energy-saving variant of Ubuntu using the LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) desktop. It is intended to have low-resource system requirements and is designed primarily for netbooks, mobile devices and older PCs."

All in all, this is a great release that really ups the ante for virtual machine technology under OS X. For that achievement, VMware Fusion 5 Professional Edition priced at $99.99 gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Gibbs is impressed in Ventura, Calif. Your virtual thoughts to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

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